Diversity is a common phrase in our world these days. We want inclusion for all regardless of national origin, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and more. There is one area of diversity, however, that often gets overlooked — disability. And individuals with disabilities account for 15% of the world’s population making them the world’s largest minority.
Disability crosses all demographics – gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Disability is the only minority that one can be born into or become a part of at any point in his or her life through accident, illness, or aging. Moreover, disability takes many forms, from those we can discern at a glance, to those that are undetectable with a look.
So how can we encourage true diversity including equity for and inclusion of those with disabilities? The best solution is to communicate openly and honestly about differences – in the classroom, in sports groups, in scouts/4-H, … everywhere. And the earlier we have these conversations with our youth the better.
Changing Perspectives does just that – encourages conversation and provides students, and educators, with tools to better understand and communicate about disabilities. Changing Perspectives’ experience in the classroom shows how much young people want to have these kinds of conversations and how these conversations help them be better friends and students.
Our credo is “promote awareness, inspire empathy.” Awareness serves as the starting point to knowledge, understanding, and empathy — core skills for social-emotional competence and academic, career, and life success. The baseline is developing self-awareness, a perpetual process initiated in early childhood, because understanding one’s own strengths and challenges is necessary for recognizing our similarities to and differences from others. The bridge from self-awareness to awareness of others is interaction, and conversation is a simple, effective place to begin.